CHAPTER 1 - Tell Me Things You've Never Said Out Loud (Just Try and Go There If You Can)
"Doctor Lance! We need you in room 305, the patient is coding!" a hurried voice sounds, making Sara turn on her heels and run across the corridor of the ICU.
"What happened?! He was stable a few hours ago," she asks while pressing her stethoscope against the patient's chest checking for breathing sounds. She frowns at the sound of labored breaths, clearly indicating weak lung function.
Sara looks at him, trying to ease the panic she can see going through him, "Harry, this is Dr. Lance. I've got you, okay?" she says as the man desperately tries to breathe.
"His pneumonia must have gotten worse over the last half an hour," a nurse summarises, placing an ambu bag over the patient's face.
"Why wasn't he put on a ventilator?!" Sara asks while starting compressions for a few rounds. After no changes occur, the doctor decides to try shocking him with the defibrillator. She orders to charge it to 100 before placing the paddles on the patient's torso.
"Clear!" She counts in her head, mentally wishing for him to stabilize. "Push two of Epi and charge to 150!" she orders a second time. "Clear!"
The second shock fails again. She tries two, three more times, until the nurse's voice finally reaches her. "Doctor Lance!"
Sara is breathing fast, clenching her jaw as she looks up at the nurse.
"There's no point anymore. The patient is dead."
Sara's shoulders sag as she slowly accepts that nurse Lidia is right. Her patient is gone and there's nothing she can do to change that. She curses internally before stating, "Time of death, 20:55."
She takes her gloves off, throwing them in the trash before leaving the room in a rush which makes her bump into one of her colleagues in the corridor.
"Woah there! Careful, you might hurt someone, love."
Sara rolls her eyes at the pet name. "Not now, John!" she barks as she pushes him away from her, but he grabs her forearm, forcing her to turn around. "Bloody hell Sara, what did I do now?"
Sara yanks her arm from John's grip, her eyes holding a dangerous amount of rage in them that sends unpleasant shivers down the man's spine.
"Not everything revolves around you! I just lost a patient, John! I lost a patient because there aren't enough ventilators for everyone. He could have been out of here and back to his husband in a couple of weeks, fully recovered. Now I have to call his husband and let him know that I let Harry die because he wasn't considered a patient at risk. In what world does that make sense? It shouldn't-"
John steps closer, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Sara! You and I both know that life can be shit like this. We had to donate our resources to places who needed them more. No doubt that what just happened to your patient is fucking unfair, but it's not your fault love.
It's not fair to put that heavy weight on your shoulders." He squeezes her shoulders for emphasis.
Sara shakes her head, angry tears starting to pool around her eyes as she refuses to think about John's words. "I have to go." She turns around, running away from the scene as she is unable to stand outside her patient's room one second longer.
Ava throws her surgical cap into the sink, fresh warm tears running down her reddened cheeks. She covers her mouth as the first wave of sobs appears before tremors take over her whole body. She braces herself on the cold metal, a welcome feeling against her feverish hands that turn numb from the strength she is exerting on the sturdy surface. She attempts to move her gaze away from the OR, but her eyes won't obey her. They stare ahead, right into the emptiness that is now the operation table. It was a matter of a few seconds, the difference of moving to the right instead of moving to the left. She had been certain, oh so certain, that she was correct on how to approach the situation, how to navigate it. She had practiced every single movement, bit by bit, inch by inch, until she had mastered it. But she forgot, or was simply too full of herself to consider that when it comes to the human body, unpredictability is your number one enemy. Ava didn't account for it, and now her patient was dead.
Sara climbs the last couple of steps she has become so familiar with over the last few years, ever since she became an attending. She reaches for the handle to push open the heavy metal door. This had become her secret spot, her safe-harbor whenever she needed to take a break away from the world.
She lets out a shaky breath as the chilly wind of the city hits her face, making her almost feel something other than the gut-wrenching pain that settled inside her ribs and is keeping a tight grip on her heart.
She looks up at the starry night sky, admiring how clear it is that particular night. She starts walking across the ground until she slowly comes to a halt, noticing there is already someone there. There's a female figure sitting on the ground, her back turned to Sara, and Sara realizes that maybe her secret place isn't that secret after all.
She doesn't recognize the person at first, so she just keeps walking ahead until she is close enough to notice who it is. Ava.
"Doctor Sharpe," she greets as she stands tall next to the other woman, a welcome change between them.
"Doctor Lance," the taller blonde greets back, eyes fixed on the horizon as one of her knees is bent, head resting on top of it. "Have you come here to gloat about yet another successful surgery?" The question comes out bitter, and to Sara it feels like being suckerpunched.
She frowns at the question and tone of it, but quickly snaps at Ava, "What the hell-" She is about to go on a rampage until she notices the tear tracks on the woman's face, her angry resolve quickly dropping. "Aves…"
"Don't," Ava demands before she is roughly wiping the remaining tears away from her face. "I don't need your pity." She brusquely gets up, cleaning the dirt off her scrubs before turning around to leave. Sara promptly chases after her until she can reach for Ava's wrist, successful in her attempt to stop her from running away.
Ava stands with her back once again facing Sara, head hanging down. It is only when Sara's thumb brushes gently across her skin that she seems to get back to the moment. Ava's body starts to shake violently before the first sob leaves her lips. She knows that Sara is far too close to not have heard it, and somehow, that makes it worse. She tries to get rid of Sara's loose grip on her wrist, but that only makes the smaller blonde step closer to her, and in a couple of seconds she has two strong arms wrapped around her waist, holding her tightly, keeping her from falling.
"Whatever happened, I'm here." Ava feels - more than hears the words - against her back.
Ava balls her fists, trying to pull herself together, trying to make sense of the turmoil that's going on inside of her. She hates that Sara is having a front row seat to this version of her - so utterly broken. It makes her stomach churn and leaves her wanting to push her away. Yet she finds herself unable to do so because she can't help the warm fluttering blossoming inside her chest that's keeping her grounded.
She finally finds her voice, croaking her first words ever since Sara stepped forward and broke her barrier. "I lost a patient today." She says the words out loud for the first time and it's not like she was expecting for all the weight that was dragging her down to leave, but she was at least expecting something to shift inside of her. Instead she just feels. Feels the guilt, feels the pain. Feels the desperate need to go back in time, to rewind to the moment she woke up and reviewed the surgery step by step. By knowing where it went wrong beforehand, she could change her approach and actually save her patient. She wishes, desperately begs some kind of high deity somewhere in the universe, to have just one more chance to do it all again.
But the world isn't fair, so instead she's standing on a rooftop with the chilly weather settling in her bones, with none other than Sara Lance - the annoying attending who spends her free time riling her up as her own personal entertainment - holding her strongly to keep her steady while she breaks apart.
"Why are you still here, Sara?" Her voice sounds strange even to her own ears by how defeated it sounds. She just wants to close her eyes, to say goodbye to this awful day, and hopefully when she wakes up it all had been just a nightmare.
Sara takes her time to reply, trying to find the best words. She senses Ava tensing when she starts to take too long, so she tightens her grip on her waist before saying, "Because I know how you're feeling right now, and no one deserves to be alone while carrying that much pain."
Ava scoffs at her words, and it cuts right through Sara's heart like a shard of glass.
"How can you possibly know what I'm feeling right now?" she asks, her voice cold and sharp.
Sara takes a deep breath and Ava frowns at how shaky it feels against her own body, her guilt only growing when Sara voices her reply, "Because I lost a patient too, minutes before I ran up here."
Ava's breath catches in her throat before clenching her jaw out of habit. She brings her hands up to rest them on top of Sara's, noticing how cold they are.
"You're freezing." Ava takes the smaller blonde's hands in hers before turning around, finally looking Sara in the eyes. She rubs the smaller doctor's hands in hers, bringing them to her lips afterwards, blowing on them to try and keep them warm. She holds Sara's gaze with hers, not once looking away.
Sara smiles sadly at her as her hands frame Ava's face, rubbing her cheeks affectionately before whispering a small thank you, a single tear escaping and running down her face.
Ava frowns at how broken she looks, and feels the need to clear the heavy mood that settles between them. "Why did you come up here in the first place?" she asks, but her voice must have come out the wrong way or the phrasing wasn't right, because it only serves to deepen the sadness on Sara's face.
Sara drops her hands, her shoulders sagging in defeat as she lowers her head. "You're right, I should leave," she mumbles before stepping away from Ava and making her way to the door.
Ava chews on her bottom lip, cursing her own words before turning around. "Sara! Wait!" she calls after her, loud enough to echo around them.
Sara stops in her tracks, the hand that was already on the handle of the door slowly letting it go. "What?" she asks with a small glance over her shoulder, her voice conveying how tired she is.
Ava takes a step forward and Sara turns toward her, waiting for her reply. The taller blonde scratches the back of her neck, clearing her throat. "I didn't mean it like that," she explains, avoiding looking in Sara's piercing blues. "I was just… wondering."
"Mhm." Sara takes a step, and another, and another, until she is only inches away from Ava. "This is where I usually come when I need some space and quiet. Sometimes my mind is so loud that I can't even concentrate, so I come here to get some fresh air. Other times I simply come here to yell at the world for a few minutes before facing the rest of my day, as if nothing had happened."
Ava looks at her, puzzled. "To yell?!"
Sara chuckles at her surprise, a small smirk on her lips. "Yep. Works wonders." She narrows her eyes at Ava, pondering on something. "Follow me," she casually says after making her decision, walking closer to the edge of the roof. Once they are side by side, Sara speaks again, "You ready?" she asks, a challenging flicker in her eyes that ignites a spark inside Ava. She nods and motions for Sara to go.
Sara closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, before she is bending forwards, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" she shouts and a smile lights up her face at the way Ava is looking at her like she just lost her marbles.
"Your turn now," Sara tells her, an encouraging and gentle smile on her face. "Come on, no one can hear us from up here. I promise," she assures after reading the uncertainty in Ava's eyes.
Ava slowly nods before taking a deep breath and looking up at the sky. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" she finally lets out. They scream a couple of times more until Ava is laughing at the whole ordeal.
Sara can't help but join in on the laughter. Once it dies down, she and Ava cross eyes, both trying to catch their breaths.
"Stay here," Sara tells her and she gives her a look Ava can't decipher.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm just grabbing something."
She speeds up until she is close to the exit door, where she crouches to open one of the boxes on the right. She grabs everything she needs before making her way to Ava.
The taller blonde raises her eyebrows at the blanket and beer case that Sara is holding.
"Wow. You really weren't kidding when you said you come here often."
Sara chuckles at her. "Honey, this has been my spot for years." She extends the blanket across the ground before sitting down on it. "You just happened to barge in without an invitation," she says teasingly, patting the seat next to her. "Come on now, before I change my mind."
Ava scoffs at her words, but her smirk betrays her. She knows Sara is just messing with her, but her words don't contain their usual bite. That's what prompts her to sit down and even go as far as accepting the beer Sara holds towards her. They sit in silence for a while, both simply enjoying the quiet surrounding them.
"It's beautiful out here tonight," Sara says after a moment, a lopsided smile on her lips that leaves Ava staring at her. Her eyes roam all over Sara's profile, admiring the freckles that dust her pale skin and the bold curve of her jaw. She is reminded of all the times she imagined tracing Sara's face with the tips of her fingers. Brushing her thumb over Sara's pouty lips or the bridge of her nose, or even the cute dimple on her chin. But then her mind goes back to all the times Sara mocked her, or pissed her off with her inappropriate comments or bratty behavior.
Suddenly Sara turns, capturing Ava's grey eyes with hers. "You okay?" she asks with sincere concern, her frown matching Ava's.
"I don't get you," Ava lets slip without meaning to, eyes wide in surprise.
Sara's frown deepens. "You don't get me? What do you mean?"
Ava sighs, shaking her head before looking straight ahead as she drinks the last of her beer. She places the empty can on the ground before laying down on the blanket.
Sara follows suite, laying down next to her, her face turned to her. "Hey… You can talk to me."
Ava keeps staring at the starry sky as a scoff leaves her lips. "See this, this is what I don't understand. How can you be so sweet but so insufferable at the same time? You make my life a living hell most of the time-"
"-But then, here we are, with you being the most supportive you've ever been. Checking on me, trying to make me feel better. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to think?" Ava asks, frustration evident in the way she is rambling.
"-And that stupid nickname you let slip from time to time, we're not even friends! You keep riling me up every chance you get, and for what?! What did I ever do to you?"
"You made me fall for you-"
"-it's like I did something bad to you, and I keep trying to remember if I did but nothing comes to mind!" Ava is having such a rant that she doesn't even realize what Sara just admitted. "You're like this five hundred piece puzzle I was never able to solve as a kid!"
Sara shakes her head, straddling Ava's waist and placing her right hand on top of Ava's mouth, all in one swift movement. "Ava, will you please let me explain myself?" she asks as softly as she can manage.
Ava mumbles something imperceptible that leaves Sara smirking. "Was that a yes?" she asks, moving her hand away after Ava nods. Sara's smile is still in place when she tucks some strands of hair behind Ava's left ear, noticing how tense the blonde is.
"You can relax, I just wanna talk. Okay?" Sara asks, her thumb caressing the other woman's cheek. Ava swallows hard, her mind going into overdrive. Sara's on her lap. Sara annoyingly-hot Lance is on top of her, touching her cheek while giving her the gentlest of looks. It lasts only a couple of seconds more, before Sara is climbing off her lap to sit next to her, legs crossed as she looks down at Ava. The latter sits up, mimicking Sara's position.
"You didn't even listen to what I said, did you?" Sara asks and Ava starts to go through the conversation in her head, slowly falling out of her temporary trance.
She scrunches up her nose as she remembers something, and Sara can't help but find it adorable.
"Well… I heard you calling me Aves."
Sara smirks at that. "Mhm… And after that?" she tries to coax, an expectant glimmer in her blue eyes.
Ava purses her lips in thought, a blush on her cheeks as realization dawns on her moments after. "You fell for me…" she says so quietly, showing how hard it is for her to believe it. "You fell for me?!"
Sara nods, looking at her with fondness. "I fell for you," she assures before adding, "I fell for your wits and beauty; for the way you give your all to help a patient even if it means working well past your designated shifts, and on top of that studying and reviewing every procedure whenever you have a big surgery."
"Sara…" Ava lets out softly, grabbing Sara's hands when she feels the need to hold on to something. Her heart beats faster when the small blonde smiles at the gesture.
Sara squeezes her hands before adding, "And I love how you treat everyone the same way. Doctors, nurses, cleaning staff. You make no distinctions and I find that so honorable of you."
Ava shrugs her shoulders at her words. "We're all human beings, why make distinctions? I'm no better than any other people working at this hospital. Except for John Constantine, I'm way better than him."
Sara snorts, and Ava feels a sense of pride at making Sara Lance actually snort at her lame joke. She ducks her head down, hiding the goofy smile that spreads across her lips.
"See that, that is one more reason I fell for you. Gorgeous and funny." Sara tells her, poking her on the side playfully. "What is it that you have against John, though?"
Ava squirms away from her touch before rolling her eyes. "He's arrogant, cocky, annoying and thinks he's the best doctor of this hospital, which clearly he isn't."
Sara raises her eyebrows at her. "Please, don't hold back because of me," she teases, earning her a glare from Ava.
"Is that all?" Sara asks, sensing that there's something more and she knows she's right when Ava avoids her gaze and starts blushing.
"Well… I mean…" she sighs before sitting up straighter, resting her elbows on her crossed legs. She swallows the fluttering of nerves that starts to climb from her stomach to her throat. Sara notices that she's having trouble speaking so she decides to intervene, ducking her head so she can capture Ava's gaze with hers. "Hey, whatever it is, you can tell me. I won't judge."
Ava bites on her bottom lip, releasing it a couple of seconds after as she lets out a sigh. "Hemakesmejealous," she says in such a rushed mumble that Sara isn't even able to understand it.
"Okay, you'll have to speak slower, otherwise I won't be able t-"
Ava rolls her eyes in desperation. "I said that he makes me jealous."
Sara frowns at the confession, tilting her head to the left which Ava finds absolutely adorable, slightly reminding her of a confused puppy. "Why would you be jeal- Ohhh."
Ava's blush intensifies at the way Sara's smirk grows, her cute dimples on full display now. "Doctor Sharpe, don't tell me you fell for me as well?"
Ava pouts, actually pouts, and Sara's heart does a somersault at the sight of it.
"Don't make fun of me, jerk!" Ava tells her, but it's light and void of bitterness.
"I'm not, I promise," she tries to assure with a gentle smile. "I just never thought you felt the same, that's all," she explains with a shrug of her shoulders.
"Well… Now you know," Ava says as she fidgets with her fingers resting on her lap.
Sara reaches over, covering Ava's hands with hers in an attempt to settle the taller blonde's nerves. She gives her a warm smile before slowly nodding. "Now I know."
She holds Ava's gaze with hers, lost in the beautiful grey hue of them before she looks up to the sky. "We should lay down, we're missing one hell of a show," Sara tells her as her eyes get used to all the stars shining up above. She looks down again, waiting for Ava's nod.
They are lying side by side in a matter of seconds, both simply enjoying the beauty of the dark starry sheet above and the peace and quiet around them.
"The patient I lost today, he had a husband," Sara tells her, eyes still focused on the sky above her. Ava doesn't turn to look at her, trying to give her the space to keep going. Instead, she reaches over until she has Sara's right hand in her left, intertwining their fingers. She squeezes gently, trying her best to show her support, to non-verbally reassure that she's listening to every word Sara's saying.
Sara squeezes back, hoping that Ava knows how grateful she is. She then adds, "I had to tell him that his partner died on my watch, that I couldn't save the love of his life." Her voice comes out in a shaky breath.
"It was not your fault, Sara. I hope you know that," Ava finally chimes in, gently, treading carefully.
Sara shakes her head, fighting back the tears threatening to spill. "You don't know that."
Ava's thumb brushes over Sara's hand, tracing slow circles on her skin. "I know there was nothing more you could do. Our time comes when it comes, we can't deny it," Ava says with determination and this time she finally turns to look at Sara. "It's just the way life works sometimes."
Sara's eyes roam Ava's face, searching for some kind of dishonesty but somehow, the words 'it was not your fault' are easier to believe coming from Ava. So instead she nods, scooting closer until her head is resting on Ava's shoulder.
Ava lets go of Sara's hand to wrap her left arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer.
"You know, the same goes for you Aves. It was not your fault." And coming from Sara, Ava believes it too.